Dolce Stil Novo: gastronomic adventure in Turin
Chef: Alfredo Russo is from Turin, but his cooking goes beyond the borders of the Northern Italian Piedmont region. With his wife Stefania he opened Dolce Stil Novo in 1990 and only after three years he was awarded his first Michelin star for his innovative Italian cooking. He also published two books “Da Idea” and “Il miele in cucina”, participated in numerous conventions devoted to high cuisine as well as in a TV show in Israel. His concept of taking traditional dishes and ingredients, elaborating them from an idea and create something new stands behind the title of his first book Da Idea. Alfredo Russo gives cooking classes at his restaurant as well so you can learn how to create Michelin star dishes like his.
Atmosphere: Simple, open and classy. This a gastronomic restaurant located just next to the former summer royal palace of the Italian kings and it feels very upper-class. A quiet, large dining room with high ceilings and views of the palace is made as if royals were to come for a lunch or dinner here. Dress accordingly to the restaurant’s stately attire, either a jacket or a formal shirt for men and a dress or elegant pant suit for women is appropriate although it is not required. Dolce Stil Novo can be a great spot for a romantic date since the restaurant’s location in the suburban Torino near the sprawling park next to the castle invites for a nice walk before or after you eat.
Food: Playful, modern and rather complex than simple Italian. I was impressed by the starter of Vitello tonnato di fassone piemontese con caramello al limone, which is one of my favorite Italian starters. Usually a thin-cut veal slices are patted with a layer of rich and creamy tuna sauce with capers in this dish, but the version of Alfredo Russo is mush lighter and elegant. He wraps the thin veal around a spoonful of the tuna sauce and adds much more of a refreshing lemon juice creating a delicious appetizer that will not fill you up before the second and third courses arrive. Great with a glass of the local red Barbaresco or perhaps some white from Gavi.
Another starter or you can have it as your “secondo” is Punte di asparagi con uovo di fattoria croccante e sale di vaniglia. This is a fun plate. An asparagus cream with vanilla salt covered with cheese shavings is a discovery for most of the diners. It is creamy, yet fluffy and light at the same time. Multiple textures from creamy smooth to dry and rough mingle on your tongue as a pinch of sand on a layer of cream in a fresh milk bucket. This is one of the vegetarian dishes the restaurant offers, but there plenty of others including various pasta and rice-based plates.
In the mood for seafood? Then start or continue with the lobster. The Astice scottato alla piastra con cremoso di melanzane viola is light, fresh and juicy. The succulent pieces of lobster with juicy marinated vegetables are drizzled with a thick drops of balsamic vinegar. It is a nice dish for light eaters, but it was not my favorite from the menu – I found it quite boring and the lobster was far from its Maine (US state) relative, that is much more tasty and complex.
One of his signature dishes also suitable for vegetarians are the “Pasta in bianco olio e parmigiano”- Alfredo Russo. In this lasagna-like pasta he combines three layers, each of a different age, of parmigiano cheese. The meat lovers will not be disappointed at this Piemontese restaurant either. The special beef main course of Spalla di manzo con intingolo alle erbe aromatiche is good but quite small, so you will still have some space for a dessert or a cheese plate. It is the most expensive meat on the menu though, so I would not pay for it.
We skipped the desserts, although we got from the chef one pre-dessert of a creamy mouse with sorbet, which was delicious, and later with tea the chef treated us to a tray of chocolate and caramel lolies and small sweets so we did not miss out any sugar that night.
We could not resist the wide cheese selection on a trolley. The offer of mostly local cheese from mild cow cheese to stinky blue goat cheese lets you savor the flavors of all cheese corners of Piedmont. I would not recommend the stinky goat blue cheese as it tasted like a stinky wax for all of us who tried it, the cow and goats cheeses with rind were nice though. Overall, I was a bit disappointed by the restaurant’s selection. Italy has excellent cheeses, so why not to show these instead?
Drinks: The wine list has a great selection of price-friendly local wines. It was a pity though that the sommelier recommended us wines that we did not love as they did not correspond with our requests and her description. The choice and quality of teas is tremendous! Having a cup of a local herbal blend after a multiple-course dinner is all one wishes before getting to bed. You get a small hour-glass to measure exactly the length of steeping your tea in water, so you can remove it in time to obtain just the beneficial substances from the tea. Many restaurants and even tea houses neglect the right steeping time for teas, so I give a huge credit to Dolce Stil Novo for making the tea experience proper for their guests.
Cuisine: Gastronomic Italian.
Visit: November 2012
Price: High (starters above €20, PRIMI: first courses above €20 and SECONDI: main courses starting at €29; a 7-course tasting menu for € 70,00 or a 9-course for €90,00 are of a better value).
Opening hours: Dinner: Tuesday to Saturday: from 8:00 pm to 10:00 pm; Lunch: daily from 12:30 pm to 2:00 pm except on Monday and Tuesday.
Address: Piazza della Repubblica, 4 – Venaria Reale (Torino); Italy
Contact: Tel: +(39) 011 4992343 – Mob: +(39) 339.1996218; Reservations are required for both lunch and dinner.